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Students Talk Unconscious Biases at Leadership Presentation

by Diane Mwai and Madison Goodgame

Photo: UAB International Business Association

The International Business Association at UAB led a presentation with Altec, Inc. to explore the world of unconscious biases impacting our decision making and framework on people around us.

The IBA hosts events for students and professionals to exchanged information between one other, helping students learn new ways to excel within their career. Dr. Scott Boyar, a Business professor, facilitated the event in an effort to bring student leadership together.

“I often invite students outside of my classes to such events when I think there might be broad interest in the topic,” Dr. Boyar said.

“I felt this was a timely topic that aligns with our student organization goals,” said Alicia Clavell, an advisor to the IBA.

The IBA views themselves as a gathering place for international and domestic students to interact with one another on a deeper level.

According to Altec, Inc. associates Hannah Deegan and Allison Bacon, this presentation helps coach viewers on the common mindsets that enable prejudice. Deegan said once we are able to become self-aware of our biases then we can truly start to understand others and their perspectives.

“We can’t fix ourselves on our own. We don’t know what our biases are without help from others,” Deegan said.

She suggested that we need to open up to being critiqued. Deegan also said that blind spots are real, and we all have them but with the help of others we can begin to grow and deepen our eyes to connect with people that are different from us.

Later in the presentation, a video meant to better explain how people automatically form biases without noticing was played for audience. The video started with two candidates for a job. The interviewer is able to connect fluidly with the interviewee and the two find that they have many things in common. When it came to her second interview, she struggled to find commonalities making for a dry, basic conversation.

Even though they both fumbled the first interview question, the interviewer only judges the second candidate’s response right off the bat. The interviewer admits that she allowed her biases to get in the way of her judgments which clouded who was actually a better candidate because as humans, our brain tends to prefer similarity.

Deegan explained the terms behind these different biases and why the human brain works the way it does in situations like this.

“The first candidate triggered the in-group bias and the second candidate triggered the upward bias. Interviews become a question of fit people, but fit is not an objective measure of success or possible performance,” Deegan said.

“When we act with courage, we address the bias without limits,” Deegan said.

Edited by Breeze Yancie, Ryan Michaels & John H. Glenn

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Made By Students from the University of Alabama at Birmingham